Today is our first day over the next two weeks as Boardingarea.com’s featured blog, and from COL Glenn, the founder of this blog, and myself (Andy), Welcome, and thank you for checking us out. Hopefully we can elucidate many of the perks that servicemembers can take advantage of when when travelling, and convince you that it’s awesome to travel while in the military!
If you’re military, you can take advantage of benefits while flying, staying in hotels, renting cars, staying in lounges, military-specific resorts and flights, choosing banks, and getting and keeping rewards credit cards. Our goal is to make all these benefits freely available to all servicemembers.
The first topic I’ll be talking about today is flying, which, unless you’re fortunate enough to travel frequently and obtain elite status, can be a particularly angst-ridden exercise. You have to show up at the airport early, pay baggage fees on luggage, slog through the security lane, wait for your plane in uncomfortable seats, paying way too much for overpriced airport food, and then jockeying for position while boarding in the hopes that there are still overhead bins available. Most military jobs aren’t going to have you travelling enough to get elite status (being a COL might be an exception), so instead, why not just be your own elite program, leveraging your military status to get elite benefits?
First off, if you are checking a bag, don’t pay for it! Why pay when it is free to check a bag when you’re in the military, even for leisure travel? The major airlines all allow at least 2, and sometimes up to 5 free checked bags for military leisure travel, and more for official military travel. There are exceptions; subpar airlines like Spirit (which I would never travel on even if desperate) don’t have military policies. Click the link above for airline charts and more specifics. If you have a military ID, just show up with your bags, show your ID, and you’re golden!
Then, don’t languish in the ordinary security lane when you qualify for TSA Precheck. All you need to do is enter your DoD ID number (shown in the middle of the back of your card) as your Known Traveler Number on your reservation, and Bam, you should get the precheck designation on your boarding pass.
When you get to the gate, instead of just waiting there with everyone else, why not check out a lounge instead for some comfy chairs, free food, and often free booze? USOs are available at most major airports free of charge, and commercial lounges are more widely available to those able to access specific credit card benefits (in a later post!).
Finally, if you’re in uniform, the major airlines will automatically give you priority boarding so you’re one of the first on to the airplane. However, if they say “active duty military” instead of “active duty military in uniform”, which has happened to me many times, feel free to step ahead into the priority lane. A couple times just asking the gate agent nicely will get me in as well.
Obviously the biggest benefit of being an elite within an airline program is the possibility of upgrades. Not much, even being in the military, can help you with this for free. But for those of us who don’t fly enough to get status, smoothing out the rest of the travelling experience is certainly nice!
In summary, frequent flyer elite benefits certainly make travel smoother, and you can leverage your military status to replicate most of those benefits for free without having to accumulate butt-in-seat miles.